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Frequently Asked Vegan Questions

Here are some of your frequently asked questions that relate to veganism. If you have any other questions, please Contact us and we'll gladly add your questions to our list here:

Veganism Philosophy

The main difference between vegans and vegetarians and is that vegans will not eat eggs and dairy products - photo courtesy of Johnny Greig:

What is a vegan?

A vegan is a person who chooses to avoid the exploitation of animals. This compassionate philosophy extends to diet, clothing, and other products and consumables. Vegans are concerned about the rights, as well as the welfare, of all animals, including humans. As a consequence of this, veganism also encompasses care for the environment since all animals need a healthy natural environment in order to lead sustainable lives. Visit our 'about veganism' for more information.

Why don't vegans eat animal products?

Most vegans believe that it is ethically wrong to take food from animals, or to contribute to their suffering through enslavement, poor welfare, mistreatment and killing on animal farms, such as meat, dairy and poultry farms. When consuming products like dairy, not only is the product bad for your health, the health of the farm animal and the environment, but one is also contributing toward the meat industry, due to their interconnectivity (the dairy industry supports the meat industry with its constant supply of cheap calves).

Some people also take up vegan diets for health, medical, religious, weightloss or environmental reasons.

Are vegans only concerned about what they eat?

Most vegans are concerned with the welfare of animals and many are involved to various degrees in promoting animal rights. For this reason they would not support any industry that involves the suffering of animals, and consequently they prefer not to wear leather, and many don't wear wool or silk either. See our what to wear section for more information.

There are many active animal rights groups around the world, and several in South Africa. We encourage all concerned citizens, whether vegan or not, to join a group and do what they can to help alleviate this terrible crime.

What are the differences between vegan and vegetarian diets?

Vegetarians and vegans do not eat meat, poultry, fish or seafood. In addition, vegans don't eat eggs, any dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, etc.) or honey.

The vegan diet is therefore stricter than a vegetarian diet, with the vegetarian criteria merely being a subset of the vegan. Consequently all food or drinks that are suitable for vegans will always be suitable for vegetarians, but not the other way round.

Aren't we designed to eat animals?

It may surprise some people but the simple answer is "No". The question deserves a page of its own: The Evolution of the Human Diet

How is veganism a development in social consciousness?

South Africa has a history of social barbarity but has developed in such a way that racism and sexism are not countenanced anymore. However, the last hurdle to overcome in our development of social conscience is speciesism, which refers to the discrimination and oppression on the basis of species identity. Read our veganism: a philosophy of life article.

The killing of animals is often a cultural tradition. How can one overcome this?

If something has been practised for hundreds or even thousands of years, this does not make the practice morally acceptable. Society in general does not approve of the binding of women's feet, female circumcision, cannibalism or human sacrifice, which were all followed by certain cultures for many centuries. By the same token, the killing of animals is not right just because it's a tradition. Read our article on African ritual slaughter.

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Veganism Health and Science
Where do vegans get their protein?

Where do elephants and most other large land animals get their protein?! The biggest land mammals on Earth are all vegan. Protein is really not a problem for vegans as many non-animal foods such as nuts, seeds, pulses and soy, are rich in protein.

Many people believe that this perceived but wholly imagined concern is a myth propagated by the meat industry in order to serve their own interests.

Is being vegan a health risk?

Many studies have found that vegans are healthier than those who eat animal products. However, as with everything, there are pros and cons and one should always follow a balanced diet.

Do vegans suffer from any nutritional deficiencies?

If vegans don't follow a sensible diet, they could become deficient in vitamin B12 and iron. However, vitamin B12 can be obtained in a wide range of foods such as B12 fortified soy milk, cereals and veggie burgers. Good sources of iron include wholegrain cereals, leafy green vegetables, lentils, kidney beans and blackstrap molasses. See our vegan nutrition section for more information.

Can you give me some dietary advice?

We are not qualified to give professional advice about such matters, whether it concerns health, weight loss programmes, eating plans, peak fitness, muscle development or anything else regarding nutrition.

However, we have begun to assemble a directory of local nutrition/health experts that specialise in the vegan diet. The directory is divided into regions so that you can easily find one in your own area. These dieticians/nutritionists have been recommended by other readers.

If you do find another expert, please let us know and we'll add it to our list so that others might benefit from the information in the future.

Can a vegan donate blood?

Because of their social conscience, many vegans donate blood and platelets. This does not result in anaemia and their recovery rate is as rapid as that of omnivores.

Do vegans eat probiotics, bacteria and yeast

These organisms are all fine to consume. The reasoning behind this is that these things lack nervous systems and thus are almost certainly not sentient (the ability to suffer or experience pain) in any way. They're pretty much in the same league as plants really.

One concern to look out for though, is where the lactobaccillus cultures come from. These are sometimes grown using blood or cow's milk, which is obviously not vegan. Woolworth's brand soy yogurts unfortunately use this unnecessary technique.

Must I cook millet or can I eat it raw?

Millet is a terrific whole grain as it is high in protein and contains all 8 essential amino acids. As with all cereal grains, it is possible to eat it raw but thoroughly chew the cereal grains. However, for someone with digestion problems it would be advisable to cook it (bring to boil and simmer for about 30 minutes).

Generally the cooking of cereal grains opens the structure of the grain, making it more easily digestable and further ensures greater availability of nutrients for absorption. Don't discard the left over cooking water as nutrients leech out into the water during heating. If you don't desire the left over liquid, save it (freeze in containers) for use in soups etc.

As with all heating, water-soluble vitamins may be slightly affected but this is a minor concern as we get ample intake of water soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B vitamins) from various other foods.

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Veganism Practicalities

Isn't the life and diet of a vegan boring? - photo courtesy of Johnny Greig:

Isn't the lifestyle boring and difficult?

In countries which have established vegan communities, being a vegan is very simple. Residents of those countries can walk into any supermarket and choose from a range of soy-based foods such as faux meats, egg-substitutes, yoghurts, mayonnaise and cheeses; even ice-creams, chocolates and desserts.

In many other countries where vegan networks are less established, the lives of vegans are made more difficult due to product unavailability, caused by a lack of bargaining power in the market place.

There is no valid reason why vegans should be 'punished' for choosing an ethical lifestyle. It is Vegan SA's purpose to facilitate the process of increasing the influence of veganism in the market place. By this way we can improve the lifestyles of vegans and encourage more people to join our cause. The outcome of this process will be the reduction of animal cruelty, which is our ultimate goal. Read our getting started section or follow the latest news by visiting our Vegan SA Blog.

Why do some vegans not drink alcohol?

Although most spirits are vegan, animal products are sometimes used in the production of brown ales, beers and wines, especially during the cleaning and finishing processes.

There is currently no legal requirement in South Africa for this to be stated on the packaging, and therefore it can be very difficult to know which products to buy. We have added a category to our foodstuffs section where you can find vegan wines. We do plan to add another category for alcoholic drinks such as beer in the future. See also our article on drinking and smoking.

How can I tell if items are completely animal-free?

Often there can be more to consider than whether or not an item is completely animal-free. Every vegan at some point has had to take medication which was tested on animals, have a medical procedure carried out that was first practiced on animals, or have consumed something which may have used animal products during the manufacturing process. It can be a full time job and prohibitively expensive to find and cut out every minor or hidden animal-derived ingredient from our diets. Such disparate items as bicycle tyres, book glue and even filtered water can use animal products in their production/treatment processes.

It is for this reason that most vegans adopt a philosophy not to concern themselves as much with animal by-products that are used in processes such as this. Avoiding an ever-increasing list of these ingredients would be self-defeating as it would make us appear obsessive and lead others to believe that compassionate living is impossible. We do our best to avoid cruel products but sometimes you are faced with no other alternative.

How do I deal with people who say I'm weird?

There is nothing weird or bizarre in caring about the well being of other creatures. However, if being on a higher moral and ethical plain makes one appear strange in the eyes of others, this merely shows up those others' innate cruelty, ignorance, and lack of ethical development. Therefore, to be regarded as weird by such people, one can actually see this as a compliment!

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Vegan SA Directory Issues
Can you tell me where I can buy product XYZ?

Unfortunately we don't have the fantastical amount of resources that would be required to keep track of every shop and product across the whole of South Africa. Apart from the remote possibility that we can help you with useful information directly, we suggest the following steps to help you find a product:
•  Review the product listing for names of shops and stores where others have purchased the product;
•  Ask your question on our Vegan SA Facebook pageOpens in a new window where the growing number of readers might be able to help you;
•  Review the product listing for contact information so you can ask the manufacturer directly where you can purchase the product;
•  Ask your local shop or store if they can stock the product for you.

Where can I find some vegan recipes?

Vegans actually have a wide variety of food to eat, which can be prepared to taste delicious. There are many vegan cookbooks on the market which can be obtained at leading bookshops throughout South Africa. It is also not difficult to prepare vegan meals. You can start here with our selection of vegan recipes.

Where can I buy cruelty-free personal care products?

You can find a wide selection that are available in South Africa in our vegan cruelty-free products section. The section is divided into useful categories making it easier to use; it even includes a category for house care products too.

We list only personal care items that have been endorsed by the Beauty Without Cruelty or Leaping Bunny programmes. This is because these organisations are well respected and have many years of experience working in the industry. They also both have representation in South Africa, meaning that the products they endorse are likely to be available in this country.

We recognise that it can be very difficult to find some of these brands, especially outside of the major cities of South Africa, and some vegans will be eager for alternatives. In these circumstances you might find it useful to take a look at PeTA's database of cruelty-free companiesOpens in a new window. Many of the products listed by PeTA are not available in South Africa, however you might find a brand or two that you recognise and can buy locally.

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Veganism Miscellaneous
How can I promote my business with Vegan SA?

In addition to our free listing service for our website directory, and paid advertising opportunities, you can also promote your products and services through our social media channels. Send us news of your latest product releases or other relevant information, and we will publish this for free in our social media (blog and/or Facebook). We also use these channels to run free prize competitions and product reviews, so these are great additional ways to gain market exposure for your business.

Are there any well-known vegans?

Apart from Mahatma Gandhi, there are hundreds of well-known vegans in all spheres, including politics, sport, music, film, art and literature.

We cannot give an exhaustive list here but some of them are: the athlete Carl Lewis and the tennis great Martina Navratilova; the politicians Coretta Scott King (the civil rights leader), César Estrada Chavez (the Mexican civil rights activist) and Janez Drnošek (the President of Slovenia); the entertainers Pamela Anderson, Woody Harelson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joaquin Phoenix and Natalie Kidman; the musicians Bryan Adams, Robin Gibb, KD Lang, Moby, Anoushka Shanker and Bif Naked; and also the film director Peter Bogdanovich, the writer Alice Walker, and the paediatrician Benjamin Spock. Don't worry, you're in good company! Read our full article on Famous vegans.

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"I have seen first hand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are perceived as powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests, and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty goes unchallenged." - South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu


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